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On Fusion, Innovation and Integration

Bogdana Sokolov of HayatiDance

Art forms rarely develop spontaneously and in isolation. New styles are likely to have been

inspired by prior art developments on which they continuously build and elaborate, adding to the constant discourse and enriching the shared experience in the process. “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” is credited to Pablo Picasso, who himself was a classically trained painter but largely broke from tradition to spur a brand new, modern direction of art, which in turn inspired others to reinvent the very definition of what art could be and ushered in the post modern movement. Even before him, artists were forced to innovate and bring about the modern movement as the invention of the camera diminished the need for art being a truthful reflection of life…which had been the objective in the preceding centuries.

In painting and sculpture, there were always different branches of expression and you can tell the signature style of an artist or workshop and do not need to read the signature to know who created or inspired a piece. In much the same way, in dance, special individuals leave their unique thumbprint on the dance form, sparking emulation and collaboration and new ideas to develop the form even further. Those singular forces have influenced many of us and have reserved a place in the dance form's history and our hearts. Honoring and respecting that tradition, learning the technique and etiquette should always come first so the creator can make informed choices if they decide to pursue a blending of styles or props for a special new taste.

We still however need additional efforts to continue to be relevant in a fast paced, global

environment. While the traditional style continues to evolve locally, gain new admirers and open new opportunities in the countries of origin, we have reached the uncharted waters of the internet era across the globe. This has brought its own challenges as we struggle to keep some of the legacy concepts afloat because of more competition for the interest of our audiences and students. Unable to compete in the new online world of access and excess, more and more in person festivals find themselves with dwindling attendance numbers and not sustainable post Covid. An aging population of dancers, specifically in the US, contributes to force in person festival closures. Maybe it is time to look for inspiration elsewhere and borrow from the lessons of history in other dance forms to attract younger generations of dancers who will carry the torch forward?

In recent years, while the single belly dancer restaurant gigs have returned, some larger scale

productions seem to be taking center stage in engaging new audiences and cross pollinating the genre. Multimedia presentations (e.g. The Radiant Tarot by Mira Krien, and The Return), continue to gain traction as Theatrical storytelling performances (Belly Dance Evolution by Jillina, Silk Road by Kaeshi Chai, 1001 Nights by Bee Law) bring an amalgamation of theater and dance and delight audiences worldwide.

Musicions and dancers have also engaged in more collaborations (Beats Antique, Balkan Bump and Zoe Jakes). These shows intrigue and tantalize the senses, and leave the audiences in awe, as they meld more familiar aspects with something new an unexpected. Engaging in such large scale collaborations is not only informative and exciting but it opens the door for new interest groups to interact with an otherwise somewhat self-contained community. Another huge opportunity for the dance community has been the continuation of online venues, again allowing artists in very different locations to collaborate and create magic together, as well as blend in cinematic techniques and video effects. These gargantuan efforts allow dancers from across the globe to interact with each other and learn together and expand their toolkit in the process but they are also necessary to bring fresh blood into the community, as they spark new ideas.

With access becoming virtually unlimited (pun intended), the community should continue to

invite new ideas, nurture development and diversity in background and talent to ensure a

broader appeal for generations to come. This would in turn bring more interest in the in person festivals and classes and allow new and unique perspectives to emerge as well as enhance the love for our traditions and legacy. I for one am excited to see all the new developments in store and opportunities to come.

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